Archive for the ‘Jonathan Power’ Category

Mladic’s conviction for mass murder delayed 22 years

By Jonathan Power

Timing is everything. Dear Reader you’re right. If I was going to write on the conviction in a UN court of General Ratko Mladic I should have done it last week when the court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the mass murder of a significant part of Bosnia’s Muslim population during the civil wars in ex-Yugoslavia.

But does a week here or a week there matter when it has taken the ridiculous time of 22 years from the horrific event in Srebrenica, when 7,000 Muslim men were rounded up and slaughtered, to conviction? It was 16 years from the end of the war and 6 years from the date of his capture. The trial in Nuremberg of ex-Nazi leaders took only a year and took place immediately after the end of the Second World War.

The Yugoslav civil wars began in 1991 and ended in 2001. At wars’ end all the fugitives sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia were in “hiding”, apart from the president of Serbia himself, Slobodan Milosevic. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump in Philippines: Are human rights deteriorating?

By Jonathan Power

November 14th 2017

When Donald Trump stretched his hand across our television screens on Sunday to shake the hand of the Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte, and then said he had “a great relationship” with him I felt my gorge contracting.

Having tasted the great, if sometimes flawed, (remember the totally counterproductive policy of arming the Afghani mujahedeen against the Soviet invaders) campaign of another US president, Jimmy Carter, to put human rights at the centre of American foreign, to see this bald regression is a bitter fruit to swallow.

Duterte recently boasted that he personally killed a man in a fight when he was 16. During his presidential campaign he darkly hinted at other killings he had made and since then has waged a no-hands-barred fight against suspected drug dealers.

Arrests, courts, justice? Forget it.

But then under President Donald Trump we have seen presidential support, as we did under President George W. Bush, for torture. (President Barack Obama reversed the Bush policy.) Read the rest of this entry »

Zionism’s undoing – the aftermath of the Balfour Declaration

By Jonathan Power

November 7, 2017

Even former US president Jimmy Carter who single handily (without much Jewish appreciation) did more to make Israel secure than any other living person confesses neither he nor anyone can change the march of demographics.

Within the boundaries of the Holy Land there are just over 6 million Jews and 6 million Palestinians. The Palestinian birth rate is almost three times that of the Israeli Jews. If anything the Jewish population is starting to fall as an increasing number of Jews decide that Israel has no future for them and emigrate.

Another former US president, Richard Nixon, when asked by Patrick Buchanan how he saw the future of Israel, turned down his thumb “like a Roman emperor at the gladiators’ arena”.

Perhaps we are witnessing the death of Israel by a thousand cuts, the friction of conflict and the attrition of population. Read the rest of this entry »

Putin’s Ukraine proposal should be explored

By Jonathan Power

To its credit the Soviet Union and its successor state, Russia, has long supported UN peacekeeping, a practice that originated in 1960 in the time of UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, who evolved the concept during the great Congolese civil war when it was in danger of becoming a Cold War flashpoint.

But what Russia has never contemplated is UN troops in its own backyard. “Summoning the UN deep into Russia’s historical space is a serious step”, Dmitri Trenin, head of the Moscow Carnegie Centre, told The Economist recently.

There does seem to be a shift in Moscow’s thinking on this highly sensitive issue.

Last month President Vladimir Putin put forward a plan for the deployment of UN troops in south-eastern Ukraine. Not that he imagines their use along the Russian-Ukrainian border – that would be too much – but he wants them to divide the fighting forces inside Ukraine. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to make it up with Iran

By Jonathan Power

Over recent years many Iranians in the big cities confided quietly to the opinion pollsters that they feel an empathy with the West. It was not reciprocated. Frankly, most people in the West have no in-depth opinion about Iran. If they think about it for more than a couple of minutes they go along with their government’s line.

A majority of Western and Arab leaders supported the American position as taken by successive presidents: Iran was probably trying to make a bomb. (To its credit US intelligence never concurred with its presidents, and privately some Western leaders would acknowledge this.)

Then came the Obama-initiated nuclear deal with Iran negotiating with the Americans, the Europeans, Russians and Chinese. It was one of President Barack Obama’s most singular achievements. At the end, Obama was gracious enough to phone President Vladimir Putin to thank him for Russian support.

The Iranian public were truly happy about the deal. But President Donald Trump has all but sabotaged their benign feelings. His private war against the Obama deal has become red hot. He appears determined to scrap it and thus return to years of bitter antagonism, besides giving succour to Iran’s nuclear weapons’ lobby. Now he has extended his wrath to Iran’s non-nuclear rocket program, even though they would be useless against Western targets.

Trump knows no Iranian history. When the Iranian revolution happened in 1979, the Shah was overthrown and the fundamentalist Islamic Shi’a regime of Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, one of the first things the new regime did was to close down the Shah’s nuclear weapons’ research program. (Ironically, it had had technical help from the US.) It was only after Iraq attacked Iran that the program was resuscitated. Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodia changes gear into reverse

By Jonathan Power

Cambodia is no longer going forward, it is slipping backwards, as it has many times before. Earlier this month the government asked the Supreme Court to dissolve the main opposition coalition. One opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was sent to prison last month and the other, Sam Rainsy, is in exile.

The English-language newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, has been closed and the relatively free radio stations leant on and a number closed. The decades-long prime minister, Hun Sen, talks about rebels in the capital, Phnom Penh, plotting to overthrow the government.

Good things still happen. The economic growth nearly touches 7% year after year. Land reform has worked. The health and education of the poor has markedly improved. In other countries, this might be a prelude to political liberalisation. But not in Cambodia. Hun Sen, who before has won many elections, some reasonably honest, some rigged, now fears defeat at the polls next year.

To understand why Cambodia is so we must go back 47 years before the genocidal movement, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, took over.

In 1970 a pro-American military junta led by Lon Nol deposed King Sihanouk, who had succeeded in keeping his country out of the Vietnam War. Read the rest of this entry »

Would Trump use nuclear weapons?

By Jonathan Power

October 10th 2017

In the Cold War days, some of us used to say, “Better red than dead”- to rebuff those who believed in nuclear deterrence as a way of political life that gave them security. Now those of us who are frightened that Trump could start a nuclear war over Iran or North Korea should coin a new phrase. How about: “Better alive than going to the grave with Kim Jong-un”?

Admittedly that doesn’t have the same snappy ring, but you get my point?

At the UN recently, President Donald Trump (aka Fire and Fury) threatened to “totally” destroy North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself.

This past weekend Senator Bob Corker, the chair of the US Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and at one time an important backer of Trump, the candidate, said that Trump could set the nation “on the path to World War 3”.

I would surmise, even though I have no polling evidence, that an overwhelming majority of the world would not accept the use by the US of nuclear weapons in any circumstances, even if they believe in what I think is the false notion of “deterrence”. In Europe, I doubt if more than 5% do.

But in America, it is another matter. According to a survey carried out in the US and analysed at length in Harvard University’s “International Security” some 50% of American adults believe that their use would be justified, especially if it saved the lives of 20,000 American soldiers. (Which is less than the 38,000 US soldiers stationed in South Korea today).* Read the rest of this entry »

India up and then down

By Jonathan Power

October 2nd, 2017

Recent reports estimate that India’s annual economic growth rate is now down to 5.5%. The government of Narendra Modi which until recently seemed to be on a public opinion roll could fall off its log – but that depends on the Indian electorate ending its self-deceit.

Three years ago Modi at the helm of his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, gave Congress a thumping defeat. Suave and persuasive on the podium, Modi rammed home a simple message – that in the state of Gujarat where he was the chief minister more had been achieved in a short space of time than anywhere else in India.

It was industrializing fast, building more roads, modernizing its ports and communications and helping the poor.

There was some element of truth in this and few doubt that Modi is an effective administrator who is strong on productivity and hard on corruption. Nevertheless, when it comes to the poor the record is by no means as good as he preached. Hunger in his state only fell slowly, no faster than the Indian average. Two-thirds of Indian children received vaccinations but only half in Gujarat. 33% of its children were underweight whilst the Indian overall rate was 30%.

Modi with his silken songs of achievement put the Congress Party in the shadow. Never mind that the Congress government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chairwoman Sonia Gandhi had reduced the number of poor by 135 million, the poor gravitated towards Modi.

Congress seemed unable to persuade the media – and this was true of the international media too – to give it a fair hearing on its successes. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump as war criminal?

By Jonathan Power

September 26th 2017

Out of the blue the war in Vietnam is in the news. Yet it is not the fiftieth anniversary of America’s defeat in Vietnam when North Vietnam caused it to flee. It’s only the forty second.

Part of this must be fearful parallels with the moral and strategic blindness of President Donald Trump who seems to believe in uttering his life and death rhetoric, akin to President Richard Nixon’s on Vietnam, he can frighten the enemy into submission – in his case North Korea.

Many people are worried that Trump is ready to fight America’s biggest war since Vietnam. As did Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, he appears to be considering the use of nuclear weapons.

The second reason for Vietnam-consciousness are the rave reviews that are being given to Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10 part documentary on the Vietnam War.

It is being mentioned all over the place.

To my mind one of the big questions is, is Trump ready to be branded a war criminal by present and future generations? Read the rest of this entry »

Cities built for man

By Jonathan Power

“What did these vain and presumptuous men intend? How did they expect to raise their lofty mass against God, when they had built it above all the mountains and clouds of the earth’s atmosphere?” This is St. Augustine writing about Babylon in his “City of God”. In more modern times Jonathan Raban has written in “Soft City”, “The city has always been an embodiment of hope and a source of festering guilt: A dream pursued, and found vain, wanting and destructive.”

St. Augustine wrote the “City of God” in a state of sorrowful contemplation. The city of man, he believed, ought to be a harmonious reflection of the City of God. In actuality it is vulgar, lazy and corrupt, a place so brutish that it lacks even the dignity of the satanic. St Augustine would surely write the same way if reincarnated in Atlanta, Johannesburg, Mumbai or Riyadh.

Johannesburg? Who can forget Alan Paton’s dark description of that city in his beautiful but painful novel, “Cry the Beloved Country”. The old, liveable, city got overtaken in the 1950s. “We shall live from day to day. And put more locks on our doors, and get a fine, fierce dog when the fine, fierce bitch next door has pups, and hold on to our handbags more tenaciously, and the beauty of the trees by night and the raptures of lovers under the stars, these things shall we forgo.

We shall forgo the coming home drunken through the midnight streets and the evening walk over the starlit veldt. We shall be careful, and knock this off our lives and that off our lives, and hedge ourselves about with safety and precaution.”

Johannesburg, it is true has its own peculiar burden, but which of us city dwellers would be brave enough to say this does not touch some primeval instinct we have that tells us this is the way our own city might go, if indeed it has not already gone, as many have the last 20 years. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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